Described as the "superfood of the future" by Forbes, quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods out there.
Health gurus sing its praises and this ancient, but newly "discovered" grain is gaining popularity worldwide.
Should you be tapping into the health benefits? We take a look at the available science on quinoa.
What is quinoa?
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd) was called "the mother of all grains" by the Incas.
It's regarded as a pseudograin since it's not a grass like our other grains (wheat, oats, rice, sorghum etc.) and both its seeds and leaves can be eaten. However, the dried seeds (and not the leaves) are generally sold in supermarkets and health shops.
In the ancient civilisations of South America, quinoa was a valued staple food that was so highly regarded that it was deemed sacred. But with the arrival of the western Conquistadores in Peru in the 1500s, quinoa was banned because of the bitter taste of the seeds.
It's only now, after many centuries, that we're "rediscovering" the nutritional value of this food.
What research shows
Recent scientific studies have confirmed that quinoa has remarkable nutritional properties - not only from its protein content (15%), but also from its great amino-acid balance.
Quinoa has been found to contain more lysine (an amino acid that's usually lacking in plant foods) than other cereals. Quinoa also contains vitamins, minerals and compounds such as polyphenols, phytosterols and flavonoids - all of which have antioxidant and protective functions.
Nutritional values published on the internet vary, but the average nutritional composition of a cup of cooked quinoa, based on nutrition data supplied by the USDA SR-21 on the Nutrition Data website (2010), is as follows:
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